Behind the Fly

Behind The Fly - RIO's King Splitsville Flying Ant

Jonny King September 19, 2023
Tell us a bit about yourself.

I am an OBSESSED fly fisherman and fly tyer and have been since I was 11 years old.  I’ve fished all over, but my home water is the Delaware River system in the Catskills. Second to that, the Northeastern coast and its stripers, blues, and albies. I haven’t caught a fish on anything other than a fly rod in decades and haven’t used anything other than a fly I’ve tied since I can remember.  Tying and fishing are inseparable for me – it’s all about figuring out what they want to eat, what will best represent that food, and presenting the food the right way.  When I'm not tying flies, I’m a jazz pianist and composer, and intellectual property lawyer.  I don’t sleep!

Where did you find inspiration for the Splitsville Flying Ant?

I’ve long been a fan of the late Bob Quigley’s flies which always have a different buggy profile. His Hackle Stacker technique is my favorite.  About 15 years ago, I started to use Hackle Stackers—basically hackle wrapped up and down a loop of thread to split wings on caddis flies, mayflies, and terrestrials.  Ants are always effective, but hard to see.  Using this technique to split the wings not only makes for a very buggy profile that imitates ants when they fall to the surface, this fly also floats exceptionally well, and is visible even down to size 20.

What's been a memorable experience fishing this fly?

Flying ant falls become a possibility on the Delaware River at the end of summer through early fall.  At the recommendation of a friend who said he’d seen rising fish in a spot that had been too warm to fish all summer—I checked out a famous run on the Mainstem of the Delaware, only to find that it was pretty dead for the first hour I was there. It seemed things hadn’t cooled down enough. Then, mayhem as the pool literally erupted, out of the blue, with rising fish.  I looked down to see my waders surrounded by flying ants as big as size 12s and as little as 24s.  I found a mid-sized Splitsville Flying Ant, then proceeded to hook fish after fish, including some big bows that ripped into my backing or just straight broke me off.  It was a magical hour of fishing while the handful of other fisherman there didn’t have the right flies to even get a look.

Favorite water to use this fly?

The Splitsville Flying ant is great for ant falls, but also as a searcher and “garbage-feeder” pattern during the summer and early fall.  It works great from the slowest water to runs that flow along at a good clip.

How do you fish the fly?

Dead-drifit all the way!

Anything else you'd like to share?

Flying ants are great searching patterns, plus an excellent option for fish that are feeding on a hatch but won't look at your mayfly or caddis pattern. One of my friends who is a longtime guide on the Delaware even uses a little Splitsville Flying Ant in black as his favorite Trico spinner imitation.